Do you use "an SSD" or "a SSD" when writing?


Grammar, please. It should be “a SSD.” One doesnt say, “I am going to install an solid state drive.”


Actually you are incorrect. Because we say acronyms out loud, the “a or an” choice would follow the sound of the first letter of the acronym.

So if you say “solid state drive”, then yes, you would say “a solid state drive”. But if you say “ess-ess-dee”–which is how most people would read “SSD”–you would indeed say “an ess-ess-dee”, not “a”.

There are some situations where it’s a bit more up in the air–apparently some people actually pronounce FAQ “fack” (I always say eff-ay-kyu), I could see it going either way.

It all depends on how an acronym is typically said.


Your article says “general rule” and I dont buy it. An ess ess dee just sounds wrong. If the rule is actually true, this would have to be an exception.


Just because you don’t say “SSD” in normal speech doesn’t mean the majority of people don’t. Many, many people say “ess ess dee” when talking about solid state drives.

But that’s not the point–if it’s written as an acronym, that’s how it would be intended to be said (unless it’s an acronym that can be said as a word, e.g. SCUBA. But SSD is not pronouncable as a word). One does not write an acronym with the intent of people saying the full term in their head. That’s just not how it works.

Lasly, “It just sounds wrong” and “I don’t buy it” aren’t, unfortunately, proof of any rule of grammar. At best, you could argue that it’s personal preference (it’s not a great argument, but you could make it). But in either case it does not make the site wrong. Sorry.


Very interesting. I have always wondered that… I just write whatever sounds good to me.

This is one of many reasons I’m glad @WhitsonGordon is replacing me :smile:


In the past I have used both. But I guess “a SSD” is the correct form - although it does not ‘flow’.


But if you say this is a ssssdee, like sssnake, then a would be correct.

The only thing I’m glad about is when I told my English teacher, back in 1955, that I would not need to know how to spell, that someone would be doing that for me I did not realize that not someone, but something would do it for me.


Excuse me Lowell - While we are all delighted to have Whitson step into the position of head writer and chief operator of HTG on a day-to-day basis — Noooobody can replace you! :grinning:

BTW – We will still see you around here from time to time - won’t we ??



What counts is pronunciation. The initialism SSD is pronounced “es es dee”. So you say “I’m going to install an es es dee.”

If you were to expand the initialism to the entire term, solid state drive, then you would say “I’m going to install a solid state drive.”

To you, maybe, but you’re not correct here.

The pronunciation of the letter “S” by itself or in an initialism is “ess”. What other words start with “es” that we can test this with? How about “ester.” Does “a ester” or “an ester” sound more correct?

It’s actually an initialism. Acronyms are pronounced as words (SCUBA, as you mentioned.) initialisms are spelled out, like FBI or CIA. I know you got the concept right, but since this whole thread is about being pedantic, I thought I’d throw my two cents in there. :wink:

Reference –

All of the style guides I’ve found agree on this topic, and while there is no official arbiter of the English language, things like the AP style guide are as close as we can get, since they define how news articles are written - and unfortunately (since most reporters so many reporters can’t write for crap), news media is pretty much the binding language of the Twenty-First Century.


Free rein or free reign? Do you think different or differently?

Those of us who are also grammar geeks know the answers (it’s “rein” and it should be “differently”). However, there is an argument that whatever the rules of grammar dictate, language is constantly evolving and common use eventually wins.

Try this: search Google for “free rein” and “free reign” (using quotes). It’s “free reign” that wins. However, Google “a LAPD officer” and “an LAPD officer” and see what happens…


I know this one!

Horses have “reins”, which are pieces of rope or leather tied to the bridle. The reins are basically a horse’s steering wheel and brakes, all rolled in to one. So when you give a horse “free rein”, you allow the horse to pick its own path and move at its own speed. As a metaphor, this means to allow a person or group to do as they wish, without applying modifying influences, or “reining them in.”

Unfortunately for me, I’ve been raised with horses and was riding a horse for as long as I could walk. For city-dwellers, however, rein and reign are easily confused, since most people are ignorant of the ways of the cowboy and have no idea what those rope-things are actually called.


Oh I’ll still be around, I have lots of HTG projects to work on.


It’s also an expression where “reign” actually make sense, too, even though it’s technically wrong in current English (i.e. there are no restrictions upon one’s reign). Language is a funny old thing…


Ah yes, thank you for correcting me on that term. I knew I was probably getting the terminology wrong there but I figured you’d get the idea :slight_smile:


Oooh, that’s one I always got wrong. I always say free reign! I learned something new today :slight_smile:



I never would have if the thread hadn’t started with someone being pedantic.

Personally, I don’t know all the rules of grammar, and I play fast and loose with the ones I do know. The important thing is that the writer gets the point across and does it clearly.

Now for the question that decides whether we all embrace you or burn this place to the ground once you take over: Oxford Comma - yes or no?


Yeah that’s why this one is hard to get right by just applying a test. Both spellings have their merits, but the metaphor derives from horsemanship, not monarchy.

It’s also why it’s a good idea to have a style guide when writing professionally or when soliciting writing - so you can get this stuff right and not tick off all your readers.

After all, a place like “How To Geek” is going to be full of Comic Book Guy types.


I am very, very, very pro Oxford Comma. Like, militantly. I can’t imagine why anyone would be anti-Oxford Comma. I only imagine that there are people who are pro-OC, and people who don’t care. What possible reason could you have against adding a comma?!


Yes, because now you can actually conversate.


LOL, I always use the Oxford comma. In fact, I probably use too many commas. I do like this example, though:

Let’s eat Grandma! [Use punctuation, it saves lives!]